Question:

In Revelation when John or well Jesus is addressing the churches, I have a question about the last church, Laodicea, in Revelation 3:15-16. I have heard many rumors about what the verse means. One says the passage means just what you read. The other is there was a hot spring and a cold mountain river in this city and that the cold and hot could be used, but when they ran together it was lukewarm and couldn't be used for anything. Do you know if there is any truth to this claim? I heard it from Bible scholars but it's all been word of mouth. I haven't seen any documentation on paper. Just scholar's words who don't cite anything from and people who teach at colleges and stuff.

Answer:

Laodicea was a wealthy city. When an earthquake destroyed parts of the city in 61 A. D., it refused aid from Rome and used its own resources to rebuild. It was a banking and financial center, which explains its available resources. It also had a large clothing operation. The sheep in the area were noted for their soft, violet-black, glossy wool. A famous medical center noted for its treatments of the eyes and ears was also located in this town.

The city was a popular retirement area for the wealthy. Because these people had retired, they concluded they had served their purpose and had reached their goal. As a result, they were indifferent to social issues. One historian, Ramsay, describes Laodicea as a city of no extremes; a city that had no peculiar characteristics unless this lack of character was its character. Wikipedia has a good summary of its history. A series of dictionary and encyclopedia articles on Laodicea can be found at NetBible.

The water supply for the city came from hot mineral springs about five miles from the city. The warm, sulphur water was nauseating to the taste and smell. You can see modern pictures of the old Roman piping system at BiblePlaces.com. An excellent video clip showing the ruins and talking about the water system can be found on All About Archaeology.

Jesus, in Revelation, was not pleased with the tepid Christians in Laodicea and he compares them to their lukewarm water supply. He also insults them by calling them poor, blind, and naked -- the exact opposite of what they were known for in the world. See Laodicea from the Revelation study for details about this passage.